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An election to preserve the community?

“On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does.”

— Will Rogers

Two years ago I was interviewing a council candidate who made an observation: “There are a lot more of these interviews than there were four years ago.” I smiled and thought, “That’s because people are much more concerned about what you might do in the next four years.” That candidate did not win the election. Why? I believe it was because they were out of touch with the community.

Democracy gives us a chance to evaluate choices every four years because our community changes its awareness while observing the decisions and directions of its elected representatives. We have just been through the most divisive administration in modern Lake Oswego history. I don’t say that lightly, or with any ill intent, it’s simply a fact. Citizens believe this administration hasn’t represented us well because it focused on special interests that were consistently divisive.

It’s a prime example of a core question. Is a candidate elected to represent the community or a special interest group? Leaders with a core belief that they represent the community at large are rare lately and that’s manifested itself in the divisiveness. The ongoing political tactic of distracting people from the special interests, seeking your tax dollars, has no place in our community. Yet it’s been used frequently (WEB, Lake access, Foothills, streetcar, etc.) in a town that naturally comes together under common values.

It’s election season and there will be endorsements by different groups. Lake Oswego now has more PACs, with every PAC a special interest group, and some endorsing the same special interest-driven candidates every election. It’s time we all take a different view and look at all the candidates to determine who is really qualified to represent all of us. That’s vital to ensuring four years of good governance. Personally, I would like to avoid a repeat of the past and focus on preserving this wonderful community.

Let’s all challenge the candidates and get their public commitment on the issues. It may be politics, but it should be about the betterment of our community, not pandering our taxpayer funds on special interest projects. That’s what many citizens have been saying over the past four years. It’s also why they are so frustrated with outcomes and a direction that just don’t seem fair. Hopefully those days are over.

For many years we have had a council that’s ideologically driven (“tax and spend”). It’s best exemplified by the old 6-1 vote (now 4-3) and recently (post 2008) with large audiences pleading with the council to hear their views during testimony. It’s time the new council hears the direction of its citizens, to which they are honor bound to represent and not the special interests looking for a taxpayer-funded handouts. If that happens in this cycle, our community will be preserved.

We have a solid group of excellent candidates for our council, now let’s all ensure we continue a return to good governance in 2013. Feel free to visit COLA LO at commonsenselo.blogspot.com or commonsenselo.org to review our posts and articles over the past several years.

Dave Berg is a 21-year resident of Lake Oswego and a board member of COLA LO.